“Odin, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat, shest, syem, vosem.” Monique Jenkinson — aka drag artist Fauxnique — repeatedly counts to eight in Russian, evoking a Soviet-era ballet teacher.
She leans on a table, slipping until she is collapsed on the floor, all the while trying to look dignified. This is “Instrument,” Jenkinson’s solo work opening Thursday at CounterPulse in The City.
Inspired by the current de Young Museum exhibit featuring costumes from legendary ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev’s career, Jenkinson uses themes the exhibit brought up for her personally as source material for “Instrument.”
“When thinking and reading about Nureyev, there is much about defection. In a post-Soviet culture, we don’t talk about defection anymore; now we talk more about political asylum. I began to think about my own experience with ballet as a territory and culture that I had to decide [at a very young age] to make my permanent home or to leave. I decided to leave. But I also kept going back. Every time I went back, I figured out, in a different way, that there was no way I could live there,” Jenkinson says.
Presented in partnership with Dancers’ Group, CounterPulse and the de Young Museum, “Instrument” explores themes such as defection, drag, aging, gender, decay, spectacle and the tragedy inherent in the practice, preservation and translation of dance.
Jenkinson invited Miguel Gutierrez, Chris Black and Amy Seiwert, three local choreographers with different aesthetics and backgrounds, to create movements for her to perform.
“The choreographers will create movement on my body. This phrase, ‘on my body,’ common in traditional choreographic parlance, evokes the creation of a bespoke garment, but makes the distinction that the movement does not come from the dancer’s body,” Jenkinson says. “I imagine that this image of ‘putting on’ movement — in line with my ever-present obsession with clothing and costumes — will directly refer to the garments on display in the de Young’s exhibition ‘Rudolph Nureyev: A Life in Dance.’”
Jenkinson lies on her side. She rolls over, slowly dragging herself upright. Eventually she ends in fifth position, the iconic ballet dancer stance.
“The idea of ballet itself as drag and of my defection from it starts to get slippery and interesting for me when I confront how, as a contemporary dancer, ballet still resides in my body and still feels like ‘home’ even though no one would mistake me for a ballerina,” she says. “I get a particular pleasure from doing and watching ballet that I don’t get from contemporary dance. This fascinates me and is one of the foundations of the piece.”